Under the Impression: Multispectral Imaging of Lord Frederick Campbell Charter XXI 5
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Lord Frederick Campbell Charter 5 is the only surviving English document that still has an authentic, legible, pre-Conquest seal attached to it. The text purports to be a writ of Edward the Confessor (1003x5–1066) granting a slew of rights to Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury. We examined the writ using multispectral imaging to recover layers of erased text.
Many scholars have noted that the text of the writ was altered on at least one occasion. Now, multispectral imaging confirms that there were multiple layers of erasures, even more than previously anticipated. The original writ may have been inscribed on reused parchment. This can be used as evidence for the conditions (and even the immense quantity) in which writs were produced during Edward’s reign. Alternatively – or additionally – the writ’s multiple alterations could suggest that it was rewritten repeatedly after the Conquest, during various phases of Canterbury’s post-Conquest property disputes. The results confirm Nicholas Brooks’ hypothesis that at one stage the text was altered from referring to the rights to the archbishop alone (in the singular), to instead refer to the whole community at Christ Church (in the plural). Taken together, these results reveal shifts in legal thinking in Canterbury between 1066 and 1100, while demonstrating the enduring authority of Edward the Confessor’s seal. These results also show the potential for using multispectral imaging to illuminate – literally – the history of manuscript production.